Monday, September 24, 2018

God remembers - He tempers His wrath

Our study last week was based on Psalm 103; there are times when we humans are forgetful, but we are noting things that God does not forget about us.  I'm hoping that this two week study of this familiar and well-loved Psalm will be of help to some of those who study here.

Let's get back to it!
He will not always accuse,    nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve    or repay us according to our iniquities. (verses 9-10)
We can see examples of this in history, as well as in our world today. Many years ago, Charles Darwin assisted in the work of humanism, dismantling the idea of a God-created world. Millions have been led astray by his words.  In the here and now, we have such widely-read people as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and the like -- they and those who revere them sneer at believers and the Word of God.
They are able to amass millions of dollars because they are gifted with words, with clarity of mind, and with life itself. They are unable to accept the fact that even that life is a gift from God -- He doesn't crush them like an eggshell, snuff out their lives..... He doesn't, as the verses state, treat them as they deserve.
It is the long-suffering of God that allows these and others like them to exist, and to continue to deny Him. Why?
Well, I believe that our God is all-powerful, omniscient, and forgiving. He's not the least bit intimidated or worried about people like this, and so He feeds and nourishes them, gives them health, and more. They are tools in the hands of Satan, after all, and we know how the story ends!

This verse explains that God is withholding His punishment of them. He shows mercy to them. And Paul tells us why:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
So, God continues to show mercy to people who are dedicated to erasing His presence and influence in this world.
He does not treat us as we deserve, whether we are believers or unbelievers.
Who is a God like you,    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever    but delight to show mercy. (Micah 7:18)
Have you ever been involved in an argument, perhaps a very heated one, and little by little, you realize you have been holding the wrong end of the stick? But you keep on arguing because you don't want to admit that you are wrong?
Or have you ever known someone who just seems to love to argue? They will try to keep a quarrel going, and they absolutely must have the last word.

Well, our Father God is not like that. He is willing to end the quarrel and welcome us home. Sometimes, though, we are not ready to stop. We want to keep fighting.
He is more ready to forgive us than we are ready to be forgiven.

He tempers His wrath.....when we forget to pray or to spend time with His Word, He remembers to feed us. He will bring verses to our mind and nourish our souls.
When we forget to give Him thanks, He sends us restful sleep. We have an opportunity the next morning to start afresh and anew.
When we remain in sin, He sends the Spirit to nudge and convict us.
When we refuse to give of ourselves to Him, He keeps on giving and blessing us.
When we fail, He lifts us up.
When we disappoint Him, or ourselves, or others, He still calls us His children.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday slowdown

I thought this worship song was a fitting interlude for our studies. We will continue in Psalm 103 next week....

Thursday, September 20, 2018

God remembers - He shows mercy

Verse 8 of our focus passage (Psalm 103) is a wonder:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,    slow to anger, abounding in love. (v. 8)
We've noted so far this week that God remembers that we are dust....that He remembers that we are we will study His mercy to those (all of us) who don't deserve that mercy.

First, the Lord is compassionate. What does compassion really mean? Well, the dictionary says that it's "deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it." We have so many examples in the Word of God's compassion.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
He sees us as we are, helpless sinners without a shepherd, and He loves us.

This verse also reminds us that the Lord is gracious. He gives us what we don't deserve.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God... (Ephesians 2:8)
 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  (James 1:17)
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. (I Corinthians 12:4) 
And the Lord is slow to anger....
The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; (Numbers 14:18a)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
He is so patient when we have our epic failures. Abraham ran ahead of God in going to Egypt, instead of staying in the land he was promised. Moses ran ahead of God when he killed the Egyptian who was persecuting a Hebrew....when we run ahead of God, or when we lag behind in a task He has blessed us with, these failures don't cause a permanent separation. God is patient, and He remembers we are dust.....
Lastly, God abounds in love. We sing about and read eagerly about His abundant love. Abundance means "great, plentiful, full to overflowing." There is no other love like God's love: when He saves us, He saves us completely. When He forgives us, He forgives all of our sins. When He sets us free, we are free forever.
I read once that Charles Spurgeon noted "all the world tastes of His sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of His ... infinite and everlasting mercy."
Isn't that a profound way to put it? God spares the world in order to give everyone the chance to be saved. He gives His children the infinite and everlasting mercy that He promised for those who believe.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;    his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;    great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. (Deuteronomy 4:31)
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)
Yes, God remembers, and He knows us, and He shows mercy to those who don't deserve it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

God remembers -- He is on our side

Last time we noted that God remembers that we are dust..... He doesn't look at us the same way that we look at us, when we look in the mirror and see all of our faults, sins, and shortcomings. Did you find time to read Psalm 103? I hope you did - it's a wonderful place for us to "camp" this week and consider.

Let's look first at these seven verses:
Praise the Lord, my soul;    all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul,    and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit    and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness    and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses,    his deeds to the people of Israel:  (Psalm 103:1-7)

Wow. I can scarcely move past those verses that list all of His "benefits." What a wonderful list..... so many people talk today about their jobs, and the benefits. They mostly mean the health insurance, the perks, the things that make that job even better than the fact that they're getting a paycheck. (Grin)
I guess if we consider our lives as believers as pretty important "work," then how is that for a list of benefits?
Forgiveness of sins, healing from disease, redemption, love, compassion, satisfaction, renewal..... can we just stop here and praise the Lord for a while?

Then let's move down to verses six and seven. What does the Psalm writer mean by the "oppressed?" In the Old Testament, and specifically in the Law, the word applied to widows, orphans, foreigners, and the destitute.
Human nature may say, "Go ahead! Take advantage of that person. You are strong. They're weak. Go on!"
God says, "Not so fast. Think about it."
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)
God loves to help the needy. He takes the side of the weak. And we are to follow His example:
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ (Zechariah 7: 9-10)
Isaiah warned again:
Woe to those who make unjust laws,    to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights    and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey    and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10:1-2)
Our Father keeps His eyes on the helpless, and when others hurt them, He moves the scales of justice. There may be times when it's hard to hang on to that belief, but this truth stands as a rock for believers. Eventually, God will bring everything to light, and He will judge impartially. He loves to help the needy.  A day is coming when there will be no hiding, no excuse-making; God keeps watch over His own.

Are you needy? Am I?
In a word, yes! The answer is yes whether we know it or not. Whether we admit it or not.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” (John 14:13-14, CEB)
The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  (John 6:63)
God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.  (II Corinthians 9:8)
We are needy. And God is on our side. He remembers that we need Him.
What a wonderful place to be!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Prayer requests

This week, we are studying a triumphant Psalm that reminds us of the Almighty's compassion for us.

Isaiah told us much the same thing as David did:
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;    break forth, O mountains, into singing!For the Lord has comforted his people    and will have compassion on his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13)
Here's an important question:
Do we show that same compassion for others?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (I Corinthians 1:3-4)
One wonderful way to show compassion is to hold up our brothers and sisters in prayer. To know that someone has looked you in the eye, taken your hand, and assured you that they will be praying about your problem, your stress, is one of the great comforts of the believer's life!

We do that virtually, here.
If you have a prayer request, please leave a comment so that others can pray alongside you. If you experience an answer and wish to share, the rest of us can praise Him with you.

Monday, September 17, 2018

I'm forgetful

Oh, boy, I'm showing my age.....
I mean, I'm getting more forgetful. (Grin)
Are ya with me, here?
You, too, huh?
It seems that we do have that issue as we age. After all, there are many physical and mental changes associated with our getting more miles on our odometers. But it doesn't necessarily mean that we are experiencing dementia. Forgetfulness can be a sign of poor diet, of stress, of poor sleep habits, and other everyday problems.
One thing I'm super-duper glad about -- God remembers things that we forget.
Yup, God remembers things that we don't . . . .

Do me a favor and open your Bible, whatever translation is your favorite, and let's study one of my favorite Psalms this week!
Indulge me, OK?

Please read Psalm 103. Then go back and read it again. Linger on the words; don't be in a rush. Let your Bible lie open and pray for the Spirit to show you the truths there.

Have we ever wondered what God really thinks about us? Yes, we know we are sinners. And He knows that. But sometimes in the middle of the night, when we are wrestling with a problem or a need, do our minds wander a bit? Do we wonder how in the world can He be interested in such little bitty people and our problems?  Even though the Word tells our mind that no problem is too small, does a thought creep in about how sinful we are, and how neglectful of our relationship with Him? Are we even worthy to be lying there praying to such an awesome and holy God?

Been there?
My hand is up, too.
As a father has compassion on his children,    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed,    he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)
Sometimes we struggle with this because we feel so bad about ourselves -- and if we know the truth about ourselves, think of how much better God knows us! We can't fool Him.
You have searched me, Lord,    and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;    you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down;    you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue    you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:1-4)
I know, right?
Sometimes we don't want to think about God or spend the time in prayer or study because when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we just want to throw up our hands in disgust. Wow, what a disappointment, we think. We certainly ought to be better by now -- more patient. More compassionate. More godly than we are.
Oy vey.
I think we've all felt that way from time to time. It's easy to feel that way when we've had a bad day. Or a hard week. Or a bad year! It probably won't take any persuasion for us to remember that we are sinners. But perhaps we don't know God's heart as well as we know our own sins. Perhaps that is why we shy away from our relationship sometimes, and feel overwhelmed with our shortcomings - and with His holiness.

Our Psalm this week can help us. This is the chapter that I turn to again and again, when I need to remember God's compassion. Let's study it this week and see what we learn!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Prayers for the Carolinas

Please join me in prayers for the people who will be affected by the huge Hurricane Florence. Lives will be disrupted, some devastated, by the relentless rain and the flooding.

Hoping for all of our neighbors to experience kindness and faith in this difficult time.

We're watching. And praying.

Stay safe.